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Celebrating a Life Worth Living, but Not Thought Worthy

A weird and sad coincidence happened to me recently.

For about three weeks, I had a strange urge to reach out to an old friend. I kept putting it off, even though every week I'd have a new epiphany as to how to connect.

Finally, I got onto Facebook to find him. And got startled when a death notice appeared under his name. Despite it showing his correct birth date, I thought it was a scam. I clicked the link only to discover he had died 10 days previously and his funeral had been three hours before.

Out of respect and shock, I dropped everything to watch his funeral video.  It was heart-wrenching to witness the deep sorrow and grief his partner and children were experiencing after his passing.

During his commemorative video, I was taken back in time, 30 years ago, when I last saw him. He was always so funny, wild and spontaneous. He lived life on the edge - drinking, engaging in extreme sports and chain-smoking more than anyone else I knew.

He was a party animal - in every bar and night club I would bump into him, he would light up the room with his exceptional story-telling abilities - blurring the lines between fact and fiction. And yet, he was always so oblivious to how my friends revered him - instantly drawn to his extroversion and confidence. 

But even in those photos, those photos of when he was youthful and carefree, you could see the sadness. The lingering sadness that grew in the photos that spanned his lifetime.  A sadness that first showed itself to me shortly after I met him, when he was 18 (and his mother went into bankruptcy).

By the age of twenty, he would regularly tell me that he was going to die young. So I'm surprised he even made it to 52, but not surprised he died of lung cancer.

About 10 years ago, he found me on Facebook and we messaged for a year. He was sick with emphysema and not working much. He had mellowed and I noticed a softness from maturity and fatherhood. I'd never been able to work him out.  But in our messages I realised his self-loathing cut so deep. He blamed himself for so many things - his mother's death, his parent's divorce and troubling conflicts with his brother. And he told me how he never felt he was good enough for me. And no matter how many times I reworded things, he chose to hold onto guilt and blame, rather than appreciate what had been.

Watching his family and friends commemorate his life, showed he had been so loved and adored. His personal insecurities and self-hatred made him a sick man for almost twenty years. And yet, he never appreciated how people loved him for his kindness, his humour and friendly demeanour. He never could see within himself what everyone could see.

I wonder what sort of life he would have had, if he had loved himself. If he felt worthy. If he felt good enough.

Reflecting on other people in my life who live in constant fear and self-hatred, I see so much wasted opportunity. So much unnecessary chaos and pain (to themselves and others). So much missing out on living their full potential and living a rich, expanded life. And sometimes, so much unnecessary resentment to those who dwell in the land of exciting possibility and take action.

I truly believe that as human beings, we have the power to be, do and have what we want. It's so easy to look around us or regret our past, and feel that we are not enough. We can make ourselves so sick, if we choose to believe we are unhealthy and undeserving of wellbeing.

When I think about the lesson that Brett's life has imparted on me, it really is to love oneself. Not in a narcissistic way, but with compassion. To lovingly smile at our mistakes and go easy on ourselves. And to love life like when we were young. Forever young.

For many of us, hating ourselves seems like the right way to behave. After all, that's what our parents did and their parents before them. We have bought into the false belief that we can make ourselves worthy by punishing ourselves for our mistakes.

I don't know about you, but I berated myself for years - and it never got me anywhere. In fact, it made things a whole lot worse and pushed me into dark places that took a long time to escape.

Over the last year, I have been challenging myself to stay in what I call The Achievement Zone. It's that place that's high in accountability and psychological safety. It's where we lead ourselves with inspired optimism taking care not to allowing negative events or thoughts to take over.

It's not interpreting an obstacle as a sign that we are doing something wrong or we aren't good enough. It means seeing hardships as learning experiences and temporary setbacks - no matter how tough. Being in the Achievement Zone is not always happy and light-hearted. It's often challenging and hard - just like a new workout. There are times when we have to face the music and receive tough feedback, so that we can confront the gap. Using that discomfort to propel us to the positive future we crave.

Ten years ago, when Brett and I messaged each other, I would carefully word my messages to help him be grateful for his life. In a small way, I did what I could to put him back on a path of seeing the beauty he had created around him. In small baby steps, he told me that he had visited the beach a few times and it had been revitalising.

One of the important hacks to keeping ourselves steady in The Achievement Zone is gratitude. Being thankful for where you are now in life and reconnecting with things that give us joy.

Life truly is a gift. The abundance of good health and the presence of a loving partner, children, friends or pets are all precious blessings that enrich our lives. Having a job where we can make a difference and positively impact others is also worth celebrating.

In the end, I knew that I couldn't help Brett. He was bipolar. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to live with such extreme highs and lows. 

Thankfully, for most of us, we are more in control of our thoughts and beliefs. The biggest blessing we can have is to focus our thoughts in a positive way that supports our dreams, rather than let fears get in our way.

It's why I have created The Achievement Zone program. It's for leaders who want to continue to be high-performing when life challenges them. It's full of hacks and curated leadership tools that save you time. And it's all done in a supportive and interactive learning community.

So, let's take a moment to reflect on the things that make us special and the moments that bring us joy. By embracing our worth and living our lives to the fullest, we can unlock our full potential and achieve greatness. 

Often, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, forgetting to truly appreciate and celebrate the amazing journey we are on. 

Remember, you are worthy of love, success, and happiness. Your life is worth celebrating. Celebrate the life you have been given and strive to make every moment count. Embrace the challenges, learn from the setbacks, and always believe in your ability to create a life worth living.


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